National Women’s Enterprise Day: Encouraging entrepreneurship

4 Oct 2023

Breege Cosgrave. Image: Enterprise Ireland

Breege Cosgrave, head of enterprise at the Wexford LEO, said that NWED 2023 is not just for women who own their own business, but also for those who want to.

It is no secret that women around the world are underrepresented in business and entrepreneurship. And while a lot of progress has been made in Ireland to get more women involved in leadership roles, there’s more work to be done.

Enterprise Ireland figures show that 37pc of its high-potential start-ups were led by women last year, compared to a dismal 8pc a decade earlier in 2012.

A report from November of last year revealed that Ireland exceeded the EU average for the proportion of women on top boards of companies, and according to a study from the start of 2023, Dublin ranks highly in global charts when it comes to nurturing women entrepreneurs.

But even though equality of opportunity is more of a reality today than it was a few decades ago, women still face significant challenges when it comes to engaging in enterprise.

Breege Cosgrave, head of enterprise at the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in Wexford, thinks that raising children and the lack of easy access to capital may be some of the obstacles holding women back in entrepreneurship.

“This may be reflective of the choice where women may decide to take the primary role in rearing a family and/or start a business in a part-time capacity to allow flexibility in looking after their children,” Cosgrave tells

“Generally, it takes time for a business to be profit-generating and single mums may struggle with this. Similarly, they may not be able to access bank finance with a single income.”

Women may also tend to have a higher fear of failure or aversion to risk when compared to men, according to Cosgrave, and there may even be a skills gap in specific areas relevant to entrepreneurship.

But despite these odds, many women have gone on to become exemplary leaders in businesses and start-ups. Now, Cosgrave wants to highlight some of these women on National Women’s Enterprise Day (NWED) on 19 October.

The idea is to promote women in entrepreneurship by hosting talks and discussions on a range of topics, from leadership and developing a strategic mindset to meeting the challenges of digitalisation and transforming business in a low carbon economy.

“The events will have experts from all walks of life along with female entrepreneurs and experienced business owners who have seen it all. NWED is not just for those females who own their own business, it is also for those who aspire to own their own business,” Cosgrave says.

Run by the LEO along with Enterprise Ireland, the event is backed by the Irish Government and the theme for this year is “Empowering Business Together”.

Cosgrave says the LEOs are there to support women “who have great idea[s] and don’t know how to take the first step”.

“Or maybe [they] dream of starting a business and don’t know what supports are out there. NWED 2023 will inform, inspire and motivate with a range of local and regional events across the network of 31 LEOs.”

Employment and opportunity

With more than 25 years of experience in enterprise, Cosgrave has been a part of the Wexford LEO for the past decade. One of her priorities as head of enterprise, she says, is creating the right support infrastructure to allow businesses to set up and expand, creating employment in Wexford.

“I manage an excellent team (all female in LEO Wexford) who have developed trusted relationships across a range of business sectors providing a first stop-shop offering business advice, mentoring, financial support and a range of other services,” she says.

But its not just the LEOs than can single-handedly get more women to embark on business journeys. The Government, Cosgrave says, plays a vital role at policy level to tackle underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship.

“An example is the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s 2020 Women in Business Action Plan which sets out 24 actions to encourage scaling of female-led businesses and increased start-up rates among females,” she says.

“Both Enterprise Ireland and the LEOs have a range of supports targeted at expanding start-up businesses with an emphasis on encouraging participation.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic